Christmas Cookies

The weekend before Christmas is cookie-making time for Ellen and I, though she does most of the baking. We have about a dozen recipes we like, and most years choose three or four from the list. This year Ellen tried a new recipe for oatmeal cookies with dried cranberries. Good, and pretty healthy for cookies, but nothing very Christmassy about it, so I won’t cover that recipe here. From the list, Ellen made Bon-Bon cookies, Gingerbread shaped cookies, and Mocha Nut cookies. This morning I added my favorite, Butterball cookies. Recipes for all those are below, after the pictures.


Here are the Bon-Bon cookies, two types. The ones with pink icing contain a Maraschino cherry, the ones with green icing have four dark chocolate chips in the center. Shredded coconut is sprinkled onto the confectioner-sugar icing while its still wet. The dough on these is typical cookie dough, with some vanilla flavoring, though the finished cookies have the flavor of either cherry or chocolate. It’s been a long time since I had a real bon-bon, but these taste pretty similar I think. I like the cherry ones best.


The Gingerbread recipe is from the “Mrs. Fields Cookie Book” published in 1992 by Time-Life. I looked for it online, but didn’t see it, so I’ve included it here. This is the most time-consuming of these recipes. Ellen has gotten quite good at chilling and rolling the dough, and cutting the shapes, but it still takes a while. Here are some just out of the oven.


While she’s doing that I prepare the decorating materials. Each dish gets three heaping tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar, one tablespoon of milk and one drop of food color, except for the white one, of course. Some inexpensive child’s paintbrushes will be used to paint the icing on, and a toothpick is used for small details like eyes and mouths. We usually have small decoration candies as well, but forgot to get any this year, the only added element was some red and green sugar crystals.


Here’s a tray of freshly painted cookies. The icing takes a few hours to dry completely, and at this stage is still hard to see on some of them.


Here’s the same tray with completely dry icing, which gets whiter overall and develops areas of frosty white that I find attractive. Some years we’ve done shaped sugar cookies as well, but not recently. One batch of shaped cookies takes long enough!


While I was decorating, Ellen was making the Mocha Nut cookies, a favorite recipe from her mother (who also gave us the Bon-Bon recipe). They’re a ball-shaped cookie that combines cocoa and instant coffee powder for a tasty mocha flavor. The finished, cooled cookies are dipped in confectioner’s sugar for a frosted topping. Ellen did these, when I do it, I put more sugar on!


Finally the Butterball cookies, which I made this morning. The main ingredients are butter and flour, and the dough is stiff and sticky, but easy to roll into balls.


Here’s a trayfull ready to go into the oven. I like them about the width of a quarter. The recipe makes just over four dozen at that size.


And the finished cookies are rolled in confectioner’s sugar (common theme, here!) while still warm, giving them the look of butter-covered snowballs. Boy, are they delicious, they’ve been my favorite since childhood, and if you’re going to make just one of these recipes, I recommend this one! We’ll be bringing a tin of cookies to each of our families at Christmas, and still have some left for here.

BON BON COOKIES (Makes about 4 dozen)

1/2 cup butter, softened (remove from refrigerator 1 hour before starting)
3/4 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
Small jar Maraschino cherries without stems, drained
Small package dark chocolate chips
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Divide into two dishes, add one drop red or green food color to each
Small package shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix butter, sugar and vanilla. Add flour and salt and blend thoroughly into a dough using your hands. When done, fill a tablespoon level with dough, then form that dough into a cup. Add cherry or four chocolate chips and form dough into a ball around them. Be sure to keep the two kinds separate. Place on ungreased baking sheets and bake about 15 minutes, until set but not starting to brown.

Dip tops of warm cookies into icing, red for cherry, green for chocolate. Sprinkle wet icing with shredded coconut.

1 cup salted butter, softened (remove from refrigerator 1 hour before starting)
3 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
ICING: as described above,
About 3/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
5 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. In a large bowl mix butter and sugar together with a pastry blender or by hand. Add egg and molasses and beat together with electric mixer on medium speed. Scrape bowl and add flour mixture. Blend by hand or mixer with dough hooks until just combined, do not overmix. Separate into two balls of equal size, placing each on plastic wrap. Flatten each and wrap tightly, then refrigerate 1 hour, or until very firm.

Using one dough patty at a time, roll out with a floured rolling pin on a floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness and cut shapes with cookie cutters, as many as you can each time. Remove excess dough, reform patty, and return to refrigerator. With a metal spatula carefully transfer shapes to ungreased baking sheet, about 1/2 inch apart. Bake until just starting to brown, about 14 minutes. Repeat same process with second original dough patty, continue until dough is too small to cut shapes from.

Allow cookies to cool completely before decorating with icing. Allow icing to harden completely before storing cookies, about 2-3 hours.

MOCHA NUT COOKIES (Makes about 4 dozen)

1 cup butter, softened (remove from refrigerator 1 hour before starting)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons instant coffee crystals, mashed into fine powder
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 and 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans
Confectioner’s sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix butter, sugar and vanilla with electric mixer until fluffy. Add remaining ingredients except nuts and mix well by hand. Add nuts and mix well. Shape into 1-inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, or until firm to a touch, do not overbake. When cool, top with confectioner’s sugar.

BUTTERBALL COOKIES (Makes about 4 dozen)

1 cup butter, softened (remove from refrigerator 1 hour before starting)
4 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted flour
1 cup chopped walnuts
Confectioner’s sugar for outer coating

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix butter and sugar and beat with electric mixer until light. Add vanilla and mix. Add sifted flour and mix well by hand. Add nuts and mix well. Shape into 1-inch balls and place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 18 minutes, or until just beginning to brown.

Remove cookies from oven, allow to cool for 2 or 3 minutes, until cool enough to handle, and roll each in confectioner’s sugar while still warm.

9 thoughts on “Christmas Cookies

  1. Lawrence McKenna


    We’re going to make the Mocha Nut Cookies. Do you prefer any brand of instant coffee over any other?


  2. Lawrence McKenna

    I’ve left lots of messages about your and Betty Crocker’s Mocha Nut Cookies. I had a bout of insomnia Christmas Eve, as it is a time of year, for whatever reason, I often get depressed and fearful. Seriously. So I ate some of the cookies without the confectioner’s sugar and found them the perfect compliment to a sinner’s reminscences. Served that way, they are coal cookies. Then I was able to savor them in a more hopeful and righteous manner the next day. By far, they were the most asked for and shared recipe this holiday season. I may have sent some folks to your blog. What a wonderful recipe. Much better than the vegetable-filled fare you usually place here. : )

    All the best for the New Year,

  3. Lawrence McKenna

    Woops. I can’t change the previous post. No Betty Crocker, in your post, after all. There was a Mrs. Fields mentioned. Is the Mocha Nut Cookie all your own? Never mind. I don’t want to know. Magicians as well as chefs shouldn’t take away the mysticism of a wonderful performance . . .

  4. Pingback: Todd’s Blog » Blog Archive » This year’s Christmas cookies

  5. Pingback: Making More Cookies | Todd's Blog

  6. Patty [Crumley] Hartmannsgruber

    Hi Todd — I really enjoyed reading about your & Ellen’s festive preparations. I have always liked reading about food & cooking. May try the butterball recipe; I wrote it out. My family always made a Betty Crocker recipe called Petticoat Tails — we however dubbed them Burnt Baloneys, and the name stuck. Because when you use red food coloring, cut rounds of the refrigerated dough, & bake it, they come out like lovely, faintly browned slices of baloney. They are delicious & buttery & use the exact same ingredients as your butterballs, just no walnuts.
    I also enjoyed your post about Charles Schulz & his lettering. Peanuts was my first cartoon love, and I bought all the 60-cent paperbacks as soon as they were published. It all started with the Courier News…

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